Input sought for water management at Pocosin Lakes

Published 7:31 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting the public’s help in crafting a long-term plan to manage water on the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

The Service will hold two open houses July 26 and 27 in Tyrrell and Hyde counties to gather input on the issues that local residents believe need to be addressed for the management of water on the refuge, including the Pungo Unit waterfowl area.

Comments and perspectives from the public are an integral part of this process and will be considered as a draft plan is put together and shared for public review. Once final, the plan will guide water management and monitoring for the refuge for the next 15 years.

“This is an important chapter in the still-short history of the Pocosin Lakes refuge, and we need the public’s help to help us understand the implications of managing water in these unique wetlands,” said Rebekah Martin, project leader for the North Carolina Coastal Refuge Complex.

Pocosin Lakes refuge was established in 1990 with the goal of conserving the unique peat wetlands. The adjacent Pungo Unit became a refuge in 1963 to provide wintering habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds.

Managing the property is no easy task. Refuge managers maintain habitat for wintering tundra swans, neotropical migratory songbirds and a variety of other at-risk species. Managers fight wildfires and invasive species. Prescribed burns rejuvenate the habitat while clearing out brush that fuels wildfires.

Restoring 35,000 acres of pocosin wetlands on the refuge to a more natural state can be challenging. The peat soil needs to remain wet so it doesn’t oxidize or burn. The refuge captures rainfall in management areas to keep the peat moist. But hurricanes and saturating rains result in excess water that must drain off. Last year, for example, unusually excessive rain in the month before Hurricane Matthew inundated the refuge.

Comments to inform our water management planning process will be accepted until Aug. 27. The open houses will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. After a brief overview, people can ask questions and provide comments at several stations located in the meeting hall. Each station will be devoted to a particular topic — refuge management or pocosin restoration, for example — and will be staffed by Service employees with a high degree of knowledge and experience with the issue.

Comments will be taken and considered as the Service develops a draft water management plan that will be available for public review and comment in the future. Written comments also will be accepted and considered as part of the planning process.


Open house information

July 26: Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 205 South Ludington Drive, Columbia

July 27: Mattamuskeet Senior Center, 160 Juniper Bay Road, Swan Quarter

For more information, visit